Friday, 16 December 2011

Review: Linux Mint 12 Lisa De-railed

I've stuck with Mint 12 since the review of the 12 Release Candidate that rolled over into the 12 Final release. Look down the history of this blog, you'll find favourable reviews of nearly every version since Mint 5.

However, several updates later and it's still badly broken in key user-facing and usability areas and poor old Lisa is looking like the donkey with three legs.

Bearing in minds we've all been selling Mint as the Linux distro for newcomers and Windows migrants, this is turning into the Black Parade.

  1. Personal File sharing: comes up empty. You get a duff message about the required files not being installed (Samba not installed). But no clue as to what you should install. No links, no hints, nothing. FAIL.
  2. Themes: broken, broken, broken, broken.
    "This this may not appear as intended as the GTK+ theme 'Murrine' is not installed." Yes it is. I installed it myself. I've logged out. I've re-started. Software centre tells me its installed, yet no version of Appearance settings or background or Desktop settings work. Pick anything; Candido, Adwaita, Mint-X. Mint 12 claims they're all missing. On both my Mint installs on both machines. FAIL.
  3. Movable launchers - try to find the User Account Admin app. Go on. Not there in MATE at all, there in Gnome Classic. Sometimes it's there in the Gnome Shell environment, depending on the success of the install. How can it move or disappear from the menus? FAIL.
  4. MATE Menu: when it works, the menu has a vertical Favorites section, which is identical to the overlay sidebar, but easier to use. Except I've only seen it once across five installs across two machines. Then it disappeared. FAIL.
  5. MATE Desktop: the inherent limitation of having no desktop icons or panel icons remains. You cannot launch your applications with a single mouse click. A minimum of two are needed. The panels cannot be edited. FAIL
  6. The desktop may be right-clickable, but the context menu is limited to placing files and folders onto the desktop space or opening a terminal window. Slightly less than useful. FAIL
  7. Mint Gnome Shell Extensions: MGSE helps, but the Gnome 3.0 interface still has glitches and runs as slow as frozen molasses.
  8. MATE Search: the integrated search is less than useful, too. Most of the items you need cannot be found, as the search is so literal based on the exact name, partial similarity searches don't work, you have to nail the first word of the top-most menu category, otherwise you won't find it. Try searching for print. FAIL
  9. Font chaos: if you open several applications side-by-side, you see random and different typefaces in each. Typography in the supposed MATE environment is ugly as sin even after you tweak the settings. FAIL
  10. Printing: is you can locate the ugly printing menu, you have to unlock it before you can add printers, but it's another broken applet that doesn't work much of the time and there's no refresh button. FAIL
I don't know how much of this is Gnome 3 and how much is MSGE and how much is the underlying Ubuntu 11.10 code from upstream.

If you can get into a working application, things work fine and stable. It's just that launching programs or configuring the Mint 12 environment is such a dismal experience, it threatens to undo all the good work of the previous 11 releases.

Will it get fixed in 12, or do we have to wait six months for Mint 13? Can Clem and the Mint team fix things when they are dependent on upstream and third party libraries? I hope so. RC